Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know: The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce

Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know: The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce

by Colm Toibin


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From Colm Tóibín, the formidable award-winning author of The Master and Brooklyn, an illuminating, intimate study of Irish culture, history, and literature told through the lives and work of three men—William Wilde, John Butler Yeats, and John Stanislaus Joyce—and the complicated, influential relationships they had with their complicated sons.

Colm Tóibín begins his incisive, revelatory Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know with a walk through the Dublin streets where he went to university—a wide-eyed boy from the country—and where three Irish literary giants also came of age. Oscar Wilde, writing about his relationship with his father, William Wilde, stated: “Whenever there is hatred between two people there is bond or brotherhood of some kind…you loathed each other not because you were so different but because you were so alike.” W.B. Yeats wrote of his father, John Butler Yeats, a painter: “It is this infirmity of will which has prevented him from finishing his pictures. The qualities I think necessary to success in art or life seemed to him egotism.” John Stanislaus Joyce, James’s father, was perhaps the most quintessentially Irish, widely loved, garrulous, a singer, and drinker with a volatile temper, who drove his son from Ireland.

Elegant, profound, and riveting, Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know illuminates not only the complex relationships between three of the greatest writers in the English language and their fathers, but also illustrates the surprising ways these men surface in their work. Through these stories of fathers and sons, Tóibín recounts the resistance to English cultural domination, the birth of modern Irish cultural identity, and the extraordinary contributions of these complex and masterful authors.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476785172
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 10/30/2018
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 158,424
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Colm Tóibín is the author of seven novels, including The Master, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Book Award; The Testament of Mary, and Nora Webster, as well as two story collections. Three times shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York.


Dublin, Ireland

Date of Birth:

May 30, 1955

Place of Birth:

Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland


St. Peter's College, Wexford; University College, Dublin, B.A. in English and history

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Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know: The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TheBookishHooker More than 1 year ago
Mad, Bad, Dangerous To Know is a collection of lectures given by Colm Toibin on three famous Irish writers, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, and Oscar Wilde. and the roles their fathers played in shaping their lives and careers. I chose to read this book because I have always loved Oscar Wilde and was interested in finding out more about him and his family life. The book is actually so much more than just a historical essay on the authors, though. It really encompasses Irish culture, their relationship with England, and the history of art and writing in that environment. The introduction was extremely well written and featured an account of the wanderings of the author through the historically rich streets of Dublin. I found this section fascinating as it really set the stage for what was to come. Personal letters, both to and from the three writers and their fathers, and accounts left behind by contemporaries gave the sections dedicated to the individual writers an unexpected depth. Talking about a subject is one thing, but seeing their experiences through their own words was an added bonus. I really was able to feel Colm Toibin's love for the Irish country, people, and art through this book. In a few instances, the author made mention of a historical event or person, perhaps under the assumption that these would be well known outside of Ireland or literary circles, with little or no explanation of what they were. It left me to Google these points, which interrupted the flow of the book. These were easy to overlook, though, as the overall book was great. Thank you to the publisher, Scribner, and NetGalley for the advanced copy of the book. It was provided in exchange for an honest review.